Sellafield workers are preparing to hold an industrial action ballot in a dispute over pay.

Unite and GMB members at the nuclear reprocessing plant will hold the ballot over a 1.5 per cent pay offer that has been imposed by management.

GMB plans to ballot its 3,000 members, claiming Sellafield has ignored repeated requests for further talks. Its ballot begins on Monday, August 14 and will close on Monday, September 4.

Unite's shop stewards decided at a meeting last Friday to go ahead with the ballot of the union's 2,000 members at the site. Members can expect ballot papers to drop onto their doormats later this month.

Sellafield Ltd - a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) company - has imposed a 1.5 per cent pay award from next month, backdated to April 1.

Graham Williams, Unite regional officer, said today (Tuesday): "This paltry pay offer is completely unacceptable.

"Last year's pay award was one per cent, but members agreed to take only 0.25 per cent in order to keep existing apprentices on an agreed rate.

"Low pay awards have been the order of the day for some time at Sellafield with the well-founded suspicion that this award dovetails with the government's harsh pay restraint policies.

He added: "There has been a sustained erosion of pay, and terms and conditions in recent years including a proposed new pensions' package with reduced benefits and new starters employed on inferior conditions.

"The management now needs to come to the table and negotiate in a constructive manner, otherwise possible future industrial action could bring Sellafield to a halt."

While GMB senior organiser Chris Jukes said: "GMB members at Sellafield Ltd understandably voted by nine to one to reject the company's pay offer.

"GMB's repeated requests for further talks have been ignored and the company has instead said it will impose its below inflation pay rise.

"With Sellafield refusing to meet us, GMB has little alternative than to ask our members if they wish to take strike action to achieve a fair pay offer.

"Last year, Sellafield workers received just 0.25 per cent extra in their pay packets, this year's offer of 1.5 per cent is way below inflation again and would mean that yet another real terms pay cut for our hardworking Sellafield members after inflation has been taken into account.

"Members are also already looking at an increase of between two to six per cent in their pension contributions, so this would be a double-hit on their living standards."

A Sellafield Ltd spokesman said: "We've offered our workforce an unconditional 1.5 percent increase this year – which is an increase to our wage bill of over £12million year-on-year.

"After a ballot of their members this has been accepted by one union, which has collective bargaining rights for over half the workforce, and rejected by two others who, between them, have collective bargaining rights for the remainder."

He added: "Like all publicly funded organisations we have to control costs and ensure we are delivering value for money for the tax payer, so we're implementing a pay award which we feel is fair, reasonable and, most importantly, affordable."